October 22, 2021 4.23 pm

Most SKDC councillors did not take optional diversity course

Councillor this week used racist slur during meeting

Just over a quarter of councillors took up a diversity course at South Kesteven District Council, as an opposition member renewed calls for training to be mandatory after the council’s vice chairman was suspended for using the n-word in a meeting this week.

A spokesman for the authority confirmed 15 of the 54 members attended equality and diversity training over two sessions held on June 7, 2021.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Amanda Wheeler, who last year successfully pushed through a motion for diversity training to be offered, is now drafting up a new motion calling for it to be mandatory for councillors who want to be members on all committees – not just licensing or planning.

Vice chairman of the council Councillor Ian Stokes this week was suspended from his party after using the n-word in a committee meeting. He has reportedly apologised but has faced calls to be removed from his post and to step down.

Councillor Wheeler said the attendance figure was “not good enough” and that getting councillors to join the course could help avoid similar situations.

“I’d like to think [Cllr Stokes] used the words in ignorance, and if that’s the case the training would have made him aware,” she said.

“There were things in it that made me more aware of my own use of language.”

“For example the phrase “uppity” – I wasn’t even aware it had racist connotations having been used in history to refer to black people who didn’t know their place.

“I don’t think I’ve ever used that word before, but I don’t think I would have reacted negatively to that word being used, whereas I think the N-word is a much more obvious racial slur.

“You can’t force councillors to take training to be a councillor because all they have to do is be elected, but you do get to choose who is on a committee,” she said.

“Training should be mandatory – certainly for councillors who hold positions of responsibility.”

She hoped to bring the motion to Full Council on November 25.

South Kesteven District Council has been contacted for comment.

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